The Vital Need
I know the way you can get
when you have not had a drink of Love:
your face hardens, your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
about a strange look that appears in your eyes
which even begin to worry your own mirror and nose.…
O I know the way you can get
if you have not been out drinking Love:
you might rip apart
every sentence your friends and teachers say,
looking for hidden clauses.…
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
the vital need
to keep remembering God,
so you will come to know and see him
as being so playful
and wanting, just wanting to help.
indeed, please bring your heart near me.
For all I care about
is quenching your thirst for freedom!
All a sane man can ever care about
is giving Love!
Hafiz, rendered by Daniel Ladinsky in I Heard God Laughing
Like the writer of the poem opposite, we too “know the way we can get”. The world is a place of turmoil, animosity and strife. Almost daily the media confronts us with news of conflict and war and their consequences. People are fighting, suffering and dying because of the desire for power, territory or money and the need for freedom. Maharaj Sawan Singh writes in My Submission:
The world of today is characterized by tension, worry and anxiety. Apart from realized souls, no one is free from their impact, no matter what our walk of life. The notable absence of harmony in modern life comes from the spiritual bankruptcy of a society thrown into chaos by people whose souls are in distress.
So the unrest in the world is just a reflection of our own inner restlessness, or strife, existing in us because our mind is not under control. This strife goes on as long as we’re unconscious of our soul and not united with the divine source from which everything has emanated. This is our vital need.
Mystics and saints – realized souls – live among us to show us the reality of the world and of ourselves. At the same time they point out to us that we have the potential to liberate ourselves from all conflicts and suffering, by realizing God. So they encourage us to search for God, for permanent happiness, peace and rest, within our own body.
They assure us that if we live in accordance with their teachings our inner restlessness will be dispelled, and we will be able to live in a loving and compassionate way, in harmony with everything in our environment, respectful to all living beings, because of the bliss and unconditional divine love we will find in our hearts.
Mystics say that once we are conscious of that divine spark of love within us, in our soul, we can become one with the divine source from which we have emanated. Becoming one with God leads to a different experience of this world, they say. Instead of discord, chaos and conflict, we will experience unity, coherence and harmony. We will realize that everything has a function and purpose, that nothing is meaningless; that everything is permeated with divine love; that every creature, every form, is an expression of that love.
What does living in accordance with the teachings of the mystics and saints imply? It means that we should eat a lacto-vegetarian diet, abstain from alcohol and mind-altering drugs, tobacco included; lead a clean and moral life, and practise meditation daily under the guidance of a perfect Master. Only by following these instructions can our mind become still and under control. Only then can we reach deep concentration during meditation. Only then can we become conscious of the divine love within us, which will reveal itself as light and sound. There is a Buddhist text, Avatamsaka Sutra, in which this is beautifully expressed:
There is a supreme concentration called peace and bliss
Which can universally save and liberate all sentient beings,
Radiating a great light, inconceivable,
Causing those who see it to all be pacified.
As quoted by K. N. Upadhyaya, in Buddhism, Path to Nirvana
So it is the practice of the teachings, the practice of meditation that will dispel our inner restlessness. That will bring us peace, tranquility and bliss and will make us conscious of the presence of divine love within us and around us. Not instantly, but gradually, because the inner unrest and dominance of our mind is enormous, and this becomes obvious when we start to practise.
When we start to meditate we realize that even just sitting motionless is very difficult for us. Our thoughts disturb simran – the repetition of the five holy names. When we try to adhere to the vows we become aware of our attachments, limitations and weaknesses. This might be painful and it may cause us to lose our confidence and faith in the path.
At these moments it is important to realize that this awakening has a purpose and is of great value. It helps us to become humble. It helps us to learn to let go and surrender ourselves to God, to the Master. As Maharaj Sawan Singh writes in Spiritual Gems:
[Human] frailties present themselves in almost every conceivable manner and interfere in concentration. But with the help of the Master and the sound current they are overcome, one by one, with every inch of the withdrawal of the current from the body towards the focus.
He goes on to say:
Do not lose heart but fight courageously. The battle has just begun. Mind is not stronger than the sound current. The Master is with you. He is watching your every movement. He is prepared to fight your battles with you. Take him as your helper. Have faith in him. Fight the mind and you will succeed.
Keep on practising the teachings of the Masters, says Great Master, and you will succeed. Our Master is prepared to fight our battles with us; he is prepared to guide us, to help us and to support us. But we have to do our bit.
Between the Master and disciple there is a channel of giving and a channel of receiving. The Master’s teachings, his guidance and the continuous showering of his grace and blessings constitute the channel of giving. Listening intently to his teachings; practising his instructions faithfully; remembering him constantly with devotion; remaining in complete obedience to him and rendering service with utmost dedication in thought, word and deed, constitute the channel of receiving. This all helps to make us receptive to his grace and bounty – to put our cup the right side up, so it can be filled with his love and grace. As the present Master has told us, the channel of giving is always open. We have to take care that the channel of receiving is not blocked.
So we must remember God, practise our meditation, and take shelter at the feet of our Master. For in this world of turmoil, becoming conscious of the presence of God, and drinking his divine love is our greatest, our most vital need.
Contemplation is a state of mind which does not need either a monastery or a desert to be practised in. We can develop the contemplative gaze which penetrates to the heart of reality in order to reach its soul in the midst of our ordinary everyday life. Contemplation is the capacity to live out the present fully.
Henri Boulard, in The Lion Christian Quotation Collection